Posted: Sun 15th Oct 2023

Five years in, Transport for Wales struggles with old stock and delays

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Oct 15th, 2023

Transport for Wales (TfW) is under scrutiny as Plaid Cymru raises significant concerns about the rail service’s performance and delivery.

This weekend marks five years since TfW took charge of the rail franchise in Wales from Arriva, the reality seems far from the initial promises made to the Welsh public.

In 2018, when the takeover was finalised, TfW pledged to its customers that improvements in services would be evident right from the start.

Fast forward five years, and the service has the unenviable distinction of having the lowest approval ratings of rail services across the UK. Furthermore, railway stations in Wales are witnessing the highest service cancellation rate in the country.

Locally, passengers using the Wrexham to Bidston line have at times endured a shambolic service with delays, cancellations, lengthy line closures due to a lack of rolling stock, and new trains introduced that have struggled to adhere to timetables.

A glaring concern pointed out by Plaid Cymru is the Welsh Government’s missed target for the modernisation of train stock.

Despite assurances that ‘95% of rail journeys in Wales and its borders will be on new trains from 2023’, recent figures reveal a significant shortfall. As 2023 draws near, only 29% of TfW’s trains are new.

The challenges for TfW don’t end there. Welsh minister for transport, Lee Waters, recently commented that he anticipates trains in Wales to become ‘less reliable in the next five years’.

He attributed this expected decline to insufficient funding from Westminster. This statement, combined with the underperformance, has led Plaid Cymru to voice concerns over the apparent ‘lack of a plan and ambition for rail in Wales’.

Plaid Cymru’s transport spokesperson, Delyth Jewell, did not mince words when reflecting on the situation. She highlighted the broken promises made by the Labour Welsh Government at the time of the franchise handover.

Jewell detailed the many challenges that passengers still face, including old train stock, delays, and a generally unsatisfactory experience.

She said: “When TFW took over the rail franchise in Wales, we were promised by the Labour Welsh Government that passengers would see improved services from the outset.

“But five years on, too much of the rail network in Wales can still be summarized by its old trains, late trains and huge levels of customer dissatisfaction. Punctuality, reliability and frequency of services has fallen. Poor information and support for passengers during disruption is still the norm.

“I’m also concerned that the government has said that we can expect trains in Wales ‘will get less reliable in the next five years’, showing a real lack of a plan and ambition for rail in Wales.

“From Westminster, we continue to receive empty promises on investment that never materialise, and are then swiftly abandoned. The electrification of rail lines for the north of Wales, like the south, was promised one day then scrapped the next. HS2 has also been scrapped, with billions of pounds in consequentials held back.

“In Plaid Cymru, we continue to strive for ambition for our transport sector. We accept that there are vast funding issues for our railways, but it’s so frustrating that the Welsh Government haven’t done more to demand the full devolution of rail which, if achieved, would allow us to control these levers ourselves.

“With the billions we’ve been denied from the HS2 project, we could develop new services and upgrades, we could ensure the electrification of rail lines for the north and south of Wales and we could shore up our struggling bus network.

“But as is stands, standards of Welsh rail are not moving forward, and any ambition for transport by Labour and the Tories remains at a halt.”

TfW said: “Some of our original targets set in 2018, including 95% of journeys being on new trains by 2023, have been revised because of the pandemic and other factors.

“Good progress is now being made on the supply, testing and introduction of our £800m fleet of brand-new trains.

“We’ve also… increased rail services by 20% since taking over the Wales and borders franchise and invested £33m in our stations in just five years.”

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